Dental hygiene is an important part of your pet's health. Keeping your pet's pearly whites "pearly white" can be troublesome for some. What if your dog doesn't chew...or if your dog chews the wrong stuff? Cats are another battle all together. Don't get discouraged because there are numerous ways to be active about your pet's dental health.
As your pet ages, plaque and calculus build up if the teeth are not "brushed". Brushing can consist of normal chewing habits or their owner physically brushing their teeth with a toothbrush/fingerbrush. Plaque and calculus, which harbor bacteria, cause gingivitis, bad breath and serious periodontal disease. As your pet chews, they remove plaque...keeping them clean and white. However, if your pet isn't a big chewer the plaque collects, hardens and turns into calculus and before you know it the veterinarian is discussing a dental cleaning. Occasionally, lift your dog's lips up and check out their teeth! Sometimes you would never even know that your dog's teeth are unhealthy.
Check out this cute Staffordshire Terrier...
... He looks healthy enough right? However, just check under his lips...
His teeth are covered with calculus and plaque!
Our Staffordshire Terrier in the photo above could've delayed the progression of his periodontal disease if he had developed good chewing habits. As puppies and kittens, furry critters chew a LOT. Being good doggy and kitty parents, we discourage our pets from chewing our fingers, telephone cords and chews... but do we remember to encourage the right kinds of chew toys?? There are numerous products available for owners to purchase for their dogs to chew on. When your puppy or kitten chews on your favorite sneakers, give them an appropriate chew toy in its place.
What if your dog or cat dislikes typical chew toys? Again, to the pet store, or your veterinarian, you go! There are specially formulated foods and treats to feed your pet to combat bad dental hygiene!
What you want to look for in a "good" chew toy is its durability. If your pet destroys it, or eats it, before you can blink...then it's not a good chew toy. You want to choose something that is going to keep your pet busy, and take a while to chew...so they really BRUSH their teeth. Nylabone makes a number of different types of bones of varying different flavors. They are designed for chewers and typically take a dog a while to wear them down. Your dog will tear off small pieces, but these are usually not large enough to be a concern. Another thing to consider is to make sure you get a product that is size appropriate. If the toy is too small, your pet may be able to chew off big pieces and swallow them. If it is too big, your pet may ignore it because they are unable to get their mouths around it. Rawhides are potentially good chew bones, if your pet doesn't bite off big chunks or your pet isn't allergic. Most pet stores allow your pet to go inside, next time you want to purchase a chew bone...take Fluffy with you! Having your pet with you not only aids you in choose the correct size bone but is a great adventure for you both! (Just make sure they are up-to-date on all their vaccines, of course.)
If your dog, or cat for that matter, isn't a fan of "chewing" don't fret. There are water additives, treats, food and the old fashioned toothbrush for you to use. Below are a few products that you could use:
·Nylabones – variety of sizes, shapes, and flavors
·Kong – variety of sizes and shapes
·Science Diet Oral Care
·Royal Canin Dental DD
·Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d
·Virbac CET Chews, toothpaste, and oral rinses
·Petstages Dental Health Chews
·Greenies Feline and Canine chew sticks
·Friskies Dental Diet
Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Once tartar forms, bacteria take over and the tissues become irritated and inflamed. If left untreated, the inflammation and infection becomes worse, the tissue begins to recede, tooth health declines, and the teeth eventually fall out or create an isolated pocket of infection. This is extremely painful and often will cause dogs and cats to become sensitive around their mouth, salivate frequently, and even lead to inappetance. Bacteria in the mouth enter the bloodstream and can seriously affect other areas of the body like major organs. Even if your pet just has bad breath, you should have a veterinarian check it out because he may have an early stage of periodontal disease that can be easily treated. This is why dental care is so important!
Veterinarians often describe periodontal disease in a number of different stages:
Stage One - Gingivitis.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue. This is the first sign of dental disease. Plaque forms on the teeth and as it is allowed to build up, it leads to irritation to the gum tissue. The gum tissue is usually pale to light pink. With gingivitis, the gum tissue adjacent to the teeth becomes inflamed and bright red. You may notice an odor from the mouth at this point.
The dog pictured above has healthy gum tissue. Note the light pink color of the gums and his pearly whites!
Canine gingivitis. Note the dark red tissue next to the tooth.
Feline gingivitis. Note the inflamed tissue and plaque buildup.
Early gingivitis has no attachment loss and bloodwork may show an increase in neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. Late gingivitis has affected more gingival tissue and stomatitis or buccal ulcers may have formed. At this point, lymphocytes are seen on bloodwork. Buccal ulcers are ulcers that form on the lips as a result of chronic inflammation.
Stomatitis typically affects cats and is a severe inflammation of the gum tissue. Radiographs will be beneficial to determine if there is any severe bone loss. Stomatitis is caused by a hyper responsive immune system and is very painful. Unfortunately, treatment usually consists of the extraction of all of the teeth behind the canines however in some severe cases all of the teeth are extracted. Once the teeth are removed, the cat's mouth is tremendously less painful and more healthy.
Stage Two - Early Periodontal Disease
With early periodontal disease there is noted attachment loss of tissues and bone loss. You may see "puffy" gum tissue and a buildup of calculus. A veterinarian would most likely recommend a dental cleaning at this point to clean up the teeth to avoid any tooth loss. A dental cleaning consists of an ultrasonic scaling of the teeth, polishing with a pumice paste and applying a flouride foam that helps strengthen the enamel.
Stage Three - Moderate Periodontal Disease
With stage three, you have more attachment loss, more bone loss, tooth root damage and mobile teeth. The teeth will have a thick build up of calculus and slight to moderate recession of the gingival tissue. Your pet's mouth will be very sensitive and odiferous. A dental cleaning should be scheduled immediately. There is a lot of bacteria hiding in this mouth and a round of antibiotics may be prescribed prior to the dental cleaning. Unfortunately, some teeth may need to be extracted because of the severity of dental disease. Once clean, and the unhealthy teeth are removed, your pet's mouth will be much healthier. Some veterinarians may put a patient on a "pulse therapy" of antibiotics to help keep down the bacteria build up after a dental cleaning.
Stage Four - Severe Periodontal Disease
Stage four periodontal disease is very severe. There is noted gingival recession, tooth abscesses, sheets of calculus and severe attachment loss. Teeth will be very loose and owners may notice that some teeth have already fallen out. A dental cleaning is needed. At this stage of periodontal disease, tooth extraction may be necessary for some teeth. An oral antibiotic will typically be administered prior to the cleaning and continued afterwards for a few days.
Dental prophylaxis is a professional cleaning performed by your veterinarian. This is considered a surgical procedure and is performed under anesthesia. Your pet will have an intravenous catheter placed to deliver fluids to keep them hydrated and keep their blood pressure stabilized. Once an IVC is placed, an intravenous sedative is administered to allow the veterinarian or veterinary technician to place an endotracheal tube and maintain the patient on isoflurane gas anesthesia. A hand scaler is used to chip off large pieces of calculus and finer cleaning is done with an ultrasonic cleaner. The ultrasonic scaler allows the veterinarian to clean under the gum line, where a lot of tartar hides. This also helps flush out bacteria, which is why an antibiotic before a cleaning is given. After the teeth are clean, they are polished with a pumice paste. This creates a smooth surface and makes it more difficult for bacteria to collect. Minor staining is often removed with scaling and polishing, but in a patient with severe periodontal disease the teeth may still look “dirty” because of staining. Once the teeth are polished, a fluoride gel is applied that strengthens the enamel.
Home care requires beginning a dental hygiene regimen, whatever works for you and your pet. It is best to brush your pet’s teeth at least weekly to have any effect. You can use an enzymatic toothpaste, like Virbac’s CET toothpaste, in conjunction with brushing. The toothpaste contains enzymes that fight bacteria. If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth, get them good chew bones. These can be some of the items we have pictured above like Nylabones, Kongs, dental sticks, or even rawhides. As long as the pet is spending time chewing the product, they are brushing their teeth. Please supervise your pet while they have their chew toys; if they are overzealous and decide to swallow big pieces, it could be harmful to their health. Maintaining a good home care routine is essential to your pet’s health. This will keep your pet’s mouth healthy and they will not have to get their teeth cleaned as often. Some patient’s will be put on a pulse therapy of antibiotics. This means they get an antibiotic for a few days of every month. This keeps bacteria populations down and increases the time between dental cleanings.
If you are concerned with your pet’s teeth, or would like a doctor to evaluate your pet’s dental status feel free to schedule an appointment by calling 803-781-7483. Remember, it can start with as little as bad breath and remember to…